Manfred warns he’ll shut the baseball season down if players aren’t more careful

Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark today that if the players don’t do a better job of managing the coronavirus, he could shut the baseball season down.

From the article:

Multiple players briefed on the call fear that season could be shut down as soon as Monday if positive tests jump or if players continue not to strictly abide by the league’s protocols . . . there is concern about off-the-field choices, with one high-ranking official saying: “There are some bad decisions being made.”

In addition to this simply being dire for the prospects of the season — so many games have already been canceled, but before now no one has publicly suggested it could be shut down — if what Passan says is true and Manfred is putting this on the players’ lap in such a straightforward wa, it risks alienating players who may take it as Manfred making them scapegoats if he has to shut the baseball season down. He and the players should be talking about a collective effort to do better, not casting blame at what is a failure with many fathers.

To be sure, players are the front line here. The vast majority of positive tests have come from the player ranks and there are strong rumors that the Marlins outbreak was the fault of the players acting irresponsibly. Without them, no games can be played. The season can weather a lot, but players must remain healthy lest Manfred shut the baseball season down. At the same time, Major League Baseball and the players jointly devised the league’s health and safety protocols. If infections which have caused the multiple game cancellations have occurred even in compliance with those rules — if they are rules, as opposed to recommendations — one has to ask why the protocols are the way that they are and why they weren’t more strict.

Either way, in my mind it comes down to this: (a) players need to stop being irresponsible jackwagons; but (b) those in authority should know well by now that depending upon people to voluntarily make smart collective decisions in all this, as opposed to requiring them to engage in smart practices, is a sucker’s bet. Just look at how the non-baseball world has dealt with the pandemic if you need any evidence of that. Governors and others have, largely, made recommendations, not strict rules. About masks. About gatherings. About any number of things. We are where we are because depending on people to do the smart thing instead of the things they want to do for selfish reasons has failed.

However that all works out, though, it’s clear, based on both the state of the schedule and the health of the league at the moment, that the season is in jeopardy. Manfred has the power to shut the baseball season down. The fact that he is now saying so out loud is sobering.